Strawberries: Hard Work Yields a Sweet Reward


“Not only is our fruit hand picked, it is also hand planted.” – Jim Eckert

While we are certainly busy harvesting apples these days, this isn’t the only big activity going on at the farm. We are currently planting 60,000 strawberry plants that, Mother Nature willing, will ripen in the spring of 2010.

Strawberry plants are planted in rows, approximately a foot apart from each other. You’ll notice that they are planted within plastic which serves three main purposes. Most importantly, the plastic serves as a sort of greenhouse. The temperature underneath the plastic is much higher than that of the fresh air. It also helps to control the weeds that grow around the plants and aids in moisture control. Furthermore, the field is set at a grade so as not to allow sitting water.

Planting stawberries is very labor intensive. Each plant, or plug, has to be sorted and untangled from one another, which is all done by hand. Then a tractor is pulled over the plastic with a machine that punches holes filled with fertilizer and water. Crew members follow behind dropping and planting the plugs firmly in the ground. It is a back bending, time consuming process. In the end, it will take a crew of a dozen planters almost 300 hours to plant the entire crop.

Like all of Mother Nature’s creatures, strawberries are also susceptible to the weather and disease. Strawberries do not deal well with the cold, winter temperatures of the midwest. During the winter, the plants will be covered with large blankets to offer added protection. Futhermore, we rotate the crops, not only to replenish the soil’s nutrients, but to protect the plants from soil-born diseases.

Strawberries require an ongoing cycle of planting, tending and harvesting. Much to our dismay, this crop that requires so much year round attention only produces ripe fruit for a few weeks. But maybe since we only get such a short time to enjoy them is why those homegrown berries always taste so darn sweet!


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